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20.5.1 The AAT and the Federal Court
While the AAT and the Federal Court have similar powers in relation to compensation matters arising under the SRC Act, the two bodies operate in different ways.
The AAT is intended to be an informal 'administrative' means of resolving disputes not only in compensation matters arising under the SRC Act, but also in relation to a great many other pieces of Commonwealth legislation which involve administrative decisions; often decisions by Australian Government administrative officers such as MRCC Delegates.
Although those whose claims are heard in the AAT are most often legally represented, there is certainly no requirement, for example, that a compensation claimant who is aggrieved by a MRCC reconsideration decision must be legally or otherwise represented. The AAT has shown over many years that it is prepared to do everything possible to assist claimants who cannot afford legal representation, or who choose not to be legally represented, in presenting their case to the AAT so that the correct or preferable decision is made.
Therefore, compensation claimants who indicate to MRCC staff that they wish to apply to the AAT for review of a reconsideration decision should be neither encouraged nor discouraged from engaging the services of a solicitor or of any other representative who may be able to help the claimant if a matter proceeds to consideration by the AAT. The employee or claimant should simply be advised that whether he/she chooses to be legally or otherwise represented in an application to the AAT is a matter for the employee or claimant's decision. No further opinion or information should be offered in such circumstances.
However, the same is not true in the case of an employee or claimant who may indicate an intention to appeal an AAT decision to the Federal Court. In such circumstances, the employee or claimant should be advised that any application to the Federal Court would necessitate legal representation and that any costs associated with obtaining legal advice would be obtained at the employee or claimant's own expense.